Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Somewhere on the Road to Corunna: A Small Napoleonic Game Using 'Food for Powder'


Lately I've been working on our household set of Napoleonic rules, 'Food for Powder', toying with a couple mechanics and playing around with a few new ideas. So this past weekend I wanted to get in a playtest of the edits to see if we could bust them in actual game play. To keep things simple we played a small game based on a scenario that I've put on several times in the past which seems to give a consistently quick yet decent game.

The scenario is an old chestnut set during the Peninsular War - a holding action at a bridge during Moore's retreat to Corunna. The scene features a weak British brigade of three battalions striving to buy enough time for their engineers to rig the bridge for demolition before the French vanguard can force its way through. A more detailed description of the smaller-scaled scenario can be found here.

The French push back a British battalion towards the river. The 'socket-trays' for the skirmishers are from Warbases.
All of these photos shown are from the last turn of the game.

As a short summary of the highlights, the French, commanded by Peter and Sylvain, advanced towards the British position (run by Stacy) along two lines of approach.  Sylvain's brigade, not being as obstructed by intervening terrain, went into action first. His lead battalion took a good deal of punishment on it's advance from two sections of Royal Horse Artillery along with musket volleys from a blocking British battalion, but they weathered the fire to go into close assault. The resulting melee battered the English infantry, but ultimately the French were spent and had to withdraw from the action.


The French press the British left flank. The 'Advance' marker denotes the path of march which was ordered for this French brigade.
Not to be deterred, Sylvain pushed his second battalion through the remnants of the first, shrugged off the resulting disorder it caused, and closed in for another assault. (At this point Stacy and I looked at each other in amazement as Sylvain typically has all the aggression of a slightly piqued French professor; which, well, he is.)  

So, while being disordered by crashing through their sister battalion, and being mauled by shot and shell, the second French battalion managed to beat all odds, stagger ahead and throw back the British line towards the bridge (the appalling rolls by Stacy at this point were truly epic). By this point two of the three French battalions were broken or spent, but the British opposing the remainder were ground down and falling back.





Peter's French force advancing on the British position. Dragoons at the top pausing while the infantry goes  into the assault.
On the other flank, Peter's French force included a small regiment of Dragoons to which he made good use of by placing them in the vanguard. As the green-clad cavalrymen approached the bridge they induced one of the British battalions to form square. Peter played it cool by not committing his cavalry to the charge, using them instead as a pinning force while his infantry came up for the assault. The British were again pushed back and they began to look nervously to the bridge to see what was holding the Engineers up.

A few squadrons of French Dragoons threatening the British right flank.
The last of the French infantry working its way through rough terrain.



As if on cue, the Engineers signaled that the bridge would be blown in two turns - intoning that it would be best if the brigade extricate themselves and get back over the river before they were cut off. Before we called it for the night we decided to see which side would have initiative for the next turn. The dice were cast and it was determined it would be the French who would react first. We reasoned that it will be a little touch and go for the British as the bridge could quite easily become swamped with men trying to escape to the other side. The French would probably be stopped at the river, but at the cost of a mauled British brigade and perhaps a few guns.


A photo taking in most of the action. The British are being forced into a thumb-shaped perimeter around the foot of the bridge (a precursor to another bridge action in 1944...)
It was great fun to break out the Napoleonics again and the rules seemed to hang together under the strain. Peter had not played the rules before but he picked up the essentials in a couple turns - which is an encouraging sign. There is still some work to be done on them but I think we're getting very close to having a solid beta playtest version soon.

38 comments:

  1. A nice report and excellent pictures!

    Cheers
    Monty

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    1. Thanks Monty! BTW I quite enjoyed your AAR of the 'Battle of Naugart' which you posted on your blog. Great stuff!

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  2. Great AAR, good to hear about the rules and great figures.

    Ian

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  3. A classic scenario, looking forward to seeing Food for Powder.

    John

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  4. That was a very fun report to read boosted by some great pictures! Good luck on your new set of rules Curt.

    Christopher

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  5. Lovely photos and an excellent report. Thanks Curt.

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    1. Thanks Rodger! Its certainly wee compared to your recent Borodino extravaganza!

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  6. Curt

    It was a good game and great photos. You had me fooled with your descriptions of Sylvain's degree of rashness. Next time we shake hands I am counting my fingers afterwards!

    Cheers
    PD

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  7. Thanks everyone for your comments!

    Peter: You've not been out enough to fully experience Sylvain's level of caution - it is the stuff of legend. So to see him throw forward his command as he did was a little out of character to say the least! Be careful, he who hosts the game writes the history!

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    1. To be fair, I think that Stacey precipitated Sylvain's attack by marching our aggressively. I'm pretty sure that the plan was to deploy the brigade and then go in, but one after another the units found themselves already engaged.

      Thanks for the warning - I'll manage my resources for the battle of the memoirs!

      Cheers

      PD

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    2. I agree, Stacy made a good decision in attempting to plug that avenue of approach before Sylvain could effectively deploy his brigade. Sylvain, in turn, showed great verve in going into the assault with what he had at hand - especially as time was of the essence with the bridge being set for demolition.

      Manage away, I am a hard man to match for opinionated 'facts' and purple prose...

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  8. A great game and AAR, Curt, and that set of rules is very interesting, something that works very good with an small game, I think.

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    1. Cheers, Juan! Yes, the rules are definitely pitched for smaller battles - from a brigade to a few divisions per side. I find there are many excellent rulesets that operate at the higher command levels geared to depict the grand battles of the period, but I've always wanted something that could focus on the countless tiny actions that occurred before and after the Austerlitzes and Wagrams. I find the reports of cavalry vedettes, active reconnaissance, pursuits, rearguard actions, etc. to be fascinating and so wished to create rules that could immerse players with a level of detail appropriate to that scale. I realize this not for everyone and so have no illusions that the rules will probably have a very limited, niche appeal.

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    2. That´s my type of game, the small battle/big skirmish with a Brigade in each side of the table. I expect to buy your rules if you put them for sale.

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  9. I have to say seeing all these rather wonderful miniatures i do find myself leaning more and more to the era!

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    1. Knowing your work, Michael, it would be a feast for the eyes! But be careful, it can be a wonderfully, all-consuming period.

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  10. AAaa the simple joy and eye candy of Napoleonics.. great stuff.

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  11. A great report Curt and some nice pics, sounds like it was a lot of fun.

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    1. Thanks Ray! It was great fun to get in some good old horse and musket gaming.

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  12. Can't believe Sylvain didn't try and find a way to retreat or retrograde his brigade over the British position...

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    1. Nope, he was a regular Roland, Richard and Rommel all rolled into one. It is the End Times.

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    2. My bunker is now fully stocked, as I await the four horsemen...

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  13. Excellent looking game Curt. So many things to enjoy, the smoke of fire, the patchwork field patterns, the clever use of skirmisher sabots, and a scrap for a bridge is always good wargames material.
    I really want to get on with getting Naps forces ready but so many other periods keep distracting me away...

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  14. Thanks Scott! Oh, I know all to well the power of distractions. It IS a hobby so we should indulge ourselves with distraction, I think. Persistence and Focus both smack of... Real Life. Yuk, and who want's that?!

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  15. Hi Curt - I am so glad to see you put on a sample of your Food for Powder rules for playtest and that it seems they have survived the "rigors" of combat - I look forward to using them at some point to respur my groups interest in napoleonics at this level. Looks like a great game and sounds like as expected a great set of amendments.... I take it the scenario was 6 battalions of French and 12 figures of French dragoons (no artillery) vs 3 British foot, a battery of British HA and a company of engineers.

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    1. Thanks! Yes, it was a small affair in comparison to the monstrous clashes that get all the headlines. The French had 6 battalions of infantry of varying quality/training, a couple squadrons of Dragoons and a battery of light guns (which did not get into action, getting bogged in the mud and hedges). The British were composed of 3 battalions (2 veteran and one relatively shaky composite battalion) and two sections of RHA (4 guns). The platoon of engineers were represented as a single base.

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  16. PS what was your mechanics for the bridge demolition since Black Powde has none?

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    1. Oh, it was very simple. As I was umpiring the game I secretly rolled a D6 and added 6 for the number of turns it would take for the Engineers to get their work completed (I rolled 9 turns in this game). I reasoned that once they got two turns away from setting their charges they would signal to the screening force that they needed to get across the bridge. If the French managed to force their way across the span of the bridge before the deadline then its demolition would be interrupted.

      One thing that BP does not allow is for columns to have any chance to effectively shoot or fight. This makes the assault of bridges, breaches, etc. virtually impossible. In 'Food for Powder' columns can fight (not well, but they can fight) - if they can get an inspiring officer and some pioneers/grenadiers at the front of the column they will increase their chances for success dramatically (though it will almost always be a bit of a grind).

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    2. Very nice touch that of the Grenadiers at the front. I like it a lot!

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    3. Hey Curt thanks for the response - Yes BP does miss some of the finer points of column attacks (thanks for your demolition derby rule) Oh any idea how soon your Food for Powder will be ready for general consumption?

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    4. Thanks! I'm hoping to get a playtest version ready for late November. This would only go out to a limited group of players that I, in turn, could harvest feedback from. ( I don't want to be deluged with comments/criticisms that I won't have time to respond to.) If you wish I can put you on the list of potential playtesters. Just let me know.

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  17. Looks brilliant Curt,
    Great figures, those RHA look full of life!

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    1. Cheers Paul! The Perry's have to take all the credit for the RHA - brilliant models, those.

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